Although there is a growing concern that the West Antarctica ice sheet will eventually collapse, a new study has some good news about the situation.
What Did Scientists Discover In West Antarctica?
In West Antarctica, part of the bedrock underneath the ice sheet is moving at a fast rate. Scientists say that this could increase the stability of the ice sheet.
The findings were published in the journal Science on June 22.
The Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica is where the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers are located. Due to the warm waters, the glaciers are quickly melting. Scientists have been concerned that this could raise global sea levels by many feet. Previously, the thought was that the ice sheet in Antarctica would remain stable for many centuries. The news of the rapid loss off the ice sheet proves that theory wrong.
The bedrock underneath the ice sheet might be what saves the day. The bedrock is rising at an average rate of 1.6 inches each year. This could counter the loss from the ice sheet to balance it all out. Over the next century, the increase is projected to be 2.5 to 3.5 times more rapid.
How Did Scientists Study The Rising Bedrock?
Ohio State University Professor Terry Wilson led a group of researchers in this study. They attached six GPS stations to the bedrock in Antarctica. Using a series of computer models, the researchers measured how the area is rising despite the rapid loss of the ice sheet.
"Terry Wilson and colleagues were extremely wise and lucky," Valentina Barletta, another scientist with the study, told Earther. "They had really, really good idea [to place those sensors] with very few indication[s] that there might have been something special."
Future Implications Of This Rising Bedrock Study
Scientists previously assumed that it would take centuries for the land to have a stabilizing effect, but it is apparently happening quicker. This proves that geologists need to take a second look at what happens in Antarctica.
"The rate of uplift we found is unusual and very surprising," Wilson said. "It's a game changer."
The researchers hope that this study will help scientists understand more about Earth's bedrock, the status of the ice in West Antarctica, and how melting ice can impact the entire planet. The findings also shed light on the importance of enhancing ice models to accurately predict what will happen. The data could also be used to help scientists measure ice loss at a more precise rate.